Is the future of films with big ideas still small?

Having just watched a short film called Stasis I’ve found myself wondering how far film making has come?  Big idea SF has largely been the perserve of small independent films since the 70s – certainly since Star Wars.  Back before then large scale SF was being made regularly.  You could go to a cinema and see a seriously handled big concept SF idea on the screen and enjoy yourself.  Towards the end of the 70s these become less common and are virtually extinct by the end of the 80s. The mainstream became dominated by franchises, tent-pole films and action films in SF trappings.  Now; don’t get me wrong, I really like a lot of these movies and I certainly don’t think there’s anything wrong with well executed pure entertainment (a recent example might be Predators) but I would like to see some of the better elements of SF put up on screen again.  My big hope is that Inception marks a turning point.

A man floating in a tank... what's going on exactly?

All of which is a long winded way of saying watch Stasis.  It’s really good.

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8 Comments on “Is the future of films with big ideas still small?”

  1. JLeuze says:

    This was a really well done short film, thanks for sharing!

    I feel the same way, most movies these days just use Sci Fi as a setting for their action movies, it could just as easily be werewolves or mobsters to them!

    One problem seems to be that they get hung up on special effects, thinking they need huge space battles or giant robots, those cost tons of money. So only really big budget SF movies are getting made, and the Hollywood mainstream that has that kind of budget is going to tend towards shallow action flicks.

    Back in the ’70s there wasn’t that precedent of big budget special effects, so I think more filmmakers were willing to try different ideas in different genres. They could build their SF worlds some models and matte paintings and concentrate more on the characters and the stories.

    There’s just too much of an expectation these days that a sci fi film will showcase a big world with lots of CG effects that a small indie film can’t pull off well. But I’m hoping that more indies will turn to pure animation to tell these kinds of stories without giant budgets required to do it live action, like anime has been doing for years.

    • antihippy says:

      Hey There,

      Thanks for the comment.

      It seems we are pretty much in agreement. I think that CGI is a problem (and a cure?) for the problem. I was watching some trailers earlier and one, for a German SF film, looked like a Wing Commander in-game video. People used to deride these sorts of videos because of their innate cheesiness but I see a lot of geeks saying “wow cool, rocketships!” these days. It’s almost as though people have forgotten what makes a good film. Or maybe I am becoming a grumpy old man?

  2. JLeuze says:

    CG is problematic for me. I don’t really like it in live action movies unless it is well done and not distracting, but that’s expensive.

    I’m more open minded when it comes to animation, it doesn’t have to be super high quality like Pixar. I’ll accept a wide range of quality and styles, from traditional 2D to South Park. Ultimately if it tells a cool story that the mainstream media can’t or won’t, I don’t care if it’s claymation!

    That’s really what I think is the major flaw of most new movies, they just have terrible writing. They spend like ten grand on the writing, and a hundred million on acting and special effects. I just don’t understand why they pay actors a small fortune to spout ten cent lines…

    • antihippy says:

      Josh,

      I agree.

      It’s interesting that you mention writing as a problem for film makers. I was listening to Kermode and Mayo’s film reviews the other week and they had Christopher Hampton on. He was saying that the screenwriter is apparently often somewhere near the bottom of the pecking order (at least in Hollywood) and this is a historical thing. Back in the day Directors fought for full artistic control whereas writers were only interested in the credit. All of which probably goes a long way to explaining why it appears that good story (writing generally) is so lacking in mainstream films.

      • JLeuze says:

        Yeah, the writers never get any clout. From what I’ve read about Robert Rodriguez and the Coen brothers, even a lot of directors get screwed at first until they learn to get final cut of their movies and other rights in their contracts.

        To really see their vision through in other mediums, I think a writer has to be able to work in that medium, or have close partners who can take care of the technical challenges of a medium like filmmaking and trust the writer to do their job well without undermining them.

        I still have high hopes for better movies in this digital age where you can carry an entire film studio in a backpack, but so far horror seems to be the only genre where independent filmmakers have really make any headway. Night of the Living Dead has inspired hundreds of films, I wish I could say the same for Soylent Green, Silent Runnings, or one of those other classic ’70s flicks.

      • antihippy says:

        It’s funny you should mention movies in a backpack. Check out Monsters. I saw this at the Edinburgh film festival this year. It’s pretty good. Budget can only be a few thousand pounds. It does show in places but it’s a great example of what you can do with prosumer* kit.

        But you know it’s not just cost we have to be aware of it’s also talent. I hope that kids grow up with a sophisticated view of whatever entertainments they are interested in – especially storytellying. I touched on that in my latest blog post but I am a little worried that people are not really absorbing complex tales anymore. Whenever I hear other geeks gasp over films that look more than a Cinematic I do a little mental facepalm.

        By the way I think those 70s films are far more influential than you think. Especially Silent Running.

        * No I don’t like that word either.

  3. JLeuze says:

    Silent Running had a a big influence on me, but I’m not making sweet scifi films! Moon is a great movie, I hope it have a big influence as well.

  4. [...] Posted: March 21, 2011 by antihippy in Uncategorized 0 A while ago I wondered whether the Future of Films With Big Ideas Was Still Small? Now I wonder whether the same is true of those that are small.  I’ve just watched Blinky.  [...]


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